A look at the various South African airlines, from their routes, prices and on-board catering.Picture supplied: Meropa Communications.
A look at the various South African airlines, from their routes, prices and on-board catering.Picture supplied: Meropa Communications.

SA domestic airline comparison: What you get for your buck

By Clinton Moodley Time of article published Feb 22, 2021

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Airlines in South Africa are constantly reinventing their offerings to entice travellers, especially after the devastating effects of Covid-19 on the aviation sector.

We compare the various South African airlines, from their routes, prices and on-board catering.

Airlink

Picture: supplied.

Route network

From Cape Town International Airport, Airlink flies to Kimberley, George, Upington, Hoedspruit, Nelspruit, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Windhoek, Walvis Bay, Victoria Falls, Maun and Harare.

From OR Tambo International Airport, Airlink flies to Durban, Upington, Bloemfontein, Pietermaritzburg, Mthatha, Sishen, Port Elizabeth, Polokwane, Nelspruit, Skukuza, Hoedspruit, Cape Town, Kimberley and East London.

It also operates flights to Lubumbashi, Dar es Salaam. Maseru, Eswatini, Harare, Bulawayo, Gabarone, Windhoek, Kasani, Walvis Bay, Ndola, Lusaka, Pemba, Tete, Beira, Maputo, Vilanculos, Nosy Be, Antananarivo, Saint Helena, and Maun.

From King Shaka International, Airlinks flies to Johannesburg and Nelspruit. From Nelspruit Airport, Airlink flies to Livingston and Vilanculos.

On-board meals

On select flights operated by its fleet of Embraer E-jets, travellers enjoy an intra-continental-style business class service with all snacks, meals and select beverages served on crockery. On domestic flights, Airlink serves a breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, mid-afternoon snack or a dinner snack with a choice of beverage.

Rates

Airlink said the airline offers "affordable and competitive" fares.

What's next

Airlink is preparing to announce new routes within the next few weeks. The airline plans to increase frequencies across its domestic and regional network on a route-by-route basis when travels pick up.

LIFT Airline

Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency(ANA)

Routes

South Africa’s newest airline LIFT launched in December. The airline offers a daily Johannesburg-Cape Town route.

Co-founder Gidon Novick said the airline opted to start with the Johannesburg-Cape Town route as it one of the busiest in the country for domestic and international travellers.

“We want to focus on this route and offer an amazing service to our passengers,” he said.

On-board meals

LIFT serves complimentary Vida e coffee and a snack on morning flights. The airline launched ‘happy hour’ on all afternoon flights with passengers enjoying complimentary local South African wines or gins with a light snack.

Pricing

Rates start from R565 one way. Travellers have the option to change or cancel their flights up to 24 hours before departure without the hefty prices attached to it.

What's next

LIFT transported 30 000 passengers during its first month and is currently running 99% on time. "Our goal is to be the most customer-obsessed airline on the planet," said Novick.

Mango Airlines

Picture: Bongani Mbatha/African News Agency(ANA)

Routes

Mango flies to seven destinations in South Africa, including Durban, Johannesburg, Cape Town, George, Bloemfontein, Port Elizabeth and East London. The airline operates one regional flight to Zanzibar on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

On-board meals

The airline offers a reduced catering on-board due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Pricing

Rates start from R571.98 one-way. Mango said the airline offers "competitive and affordable fares which include free 20kg free luggage."

Future plans

Mango is working towards growing its seat-share capacity numbers to reach pre-Covid 2019 figures.

FlySafair

Picture: Supplied

Routes

From OR Tambo International Airport, FlySafair flies to Cape Town, Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth and George. From Lanseria International Airport, the airline flies to Cape Town and Durban.

From Cape Town International Airport, FlySafair flies to Durban, East London, Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg (OR Tambo International Airport and Lanseria International Airport).

From East London Airport and Port Elizabeth International Airport, the airline flies to Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg (OR Tambo International Airport).

From King Shaka International, the airline flies to Cape Town, Johannesburg (OR Tambo International Airport and Lanseria International Airport), East London and Port Elizabeth. From George Airport, the airline flies to OR Tambo International Airport.

On-board meals

FlySafair does not offer in-flight catering due to Covid-19.

Rates

Rates start from R422 one way. Kirby Gordon, chief marketing officer at FlySafair, said the airline operates on a demand and supply scale for flight costings. "The longer flights are booked in advance, the cheaper the flight will be," he said.

What's next

The airline will commence two flights from Mauritius and South Africa once Mauritius lifts Covid-19 travel restrictions. Gordon said the airline is "always exploring value-added partnerships and opportunities to expand with demand."

Kulula.com

Picture: supplied.

Routes

Desmond ‘O Connor, Executive Head Revenue Management at Comair, said Kulula.com operates flights to Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban, East London and George.

Pricing

Kulula.com said prices differ by route. Customers can find the best pricing on the website.

On-board meals

The airline doesn't serve meals or snacks during the flight. Passengers can request water.

What's next

The airline hopes to fly a full schedule by mid-year.

British Airways

Picture: supplied.

Route

Desmond ‘O Connor, Executive Head Revenue Management at Comair, said British Airways (operated by Comair) operates flights from Cape Town Johannesburg Durban and Port Elizabeth. The airline will fly to East London from mid-March.

Pricing

Comair said prices differ by route. Customers can find the best pricing on the website.

On-board meals

British Airways (operated by Comair) offers pre-packed cold meals and snacks to limit contact. A selection of alcoholic beverages is served in Club (Business Class). Comair will cater to select special meal options.

South African Airways

Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

South African Airways (SAA) has suspended domestic and regional flights until April 30, 2021, and international flights until October 30, 2021.

The airline said in a statement that the time allows them to "concentrate on moving forward our much-publicised business rescue process".

"While the SAA Business Rescue Practitioners (BRPs) are working with the shareholder, the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) and the interim Board of Directors on the future shape and form of the airline we regret that a temporary suspension of all operations is necessary," it said in a statement.

Please note: Airlines are subject to suspend routes due to Covid-19 travel bans and restrictions.

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